Nino Bergese

Giacomo Bergese was born in Saluzzo in 1904 and became a cook at the young age of 13. In 1917 he began working at the estate of Count Bonvicino as garden help, but was quickly transferred to the kitchens to work alongside Chef Giovanni Bastone, the future chef of the Agnelli family. During this time he kept a diary where he noted all the recipes he could manage, and that he would always call «my only treasure».

At sixteen years old he was already an assistant chef at the estate of Count Costa Carrù della Trinità and there he had several famous guests: from Italian sovereigns to King Faud of Egypt, from the Duke of Aosta to the Duke of Genoa. In 1926, at just 22 years old, he became the head chef of the Wilds, a rich family in the cotton industry.
Even from the start he had a striking career (and he never once took a day off, including his wedding day and the day his daughter was born!). At the end of 1926, he began service at the estate of Count Alborio Mella di Sant'Elia, the master of ceremonies of the Savoia House. On September 15th at Villa Crocetta (located between Intra and Pallanza), the summer residence of the master of ceremonies, Bergese prepared the meal for the celebration of the 22nd birthday of Prince Umberto di Savoia. The lunch was a huge success – Bergese prepared a Florentine Cake that the Prince liked so much he asked for it three days in a row afterwards. This chocolate success earned him 500 lira and silver cufflinks engraved with the royal coat of arms.

From this moment on, Bergese worked in the homes of many aristocrats and in bourgeois palaces, among these the homes of the Medici del Vascello and the Baldi family.

After the war Bergese stopped working with the grand families to become sole owner and head chef of the restaurant «La Santa» in Genoa in vicolo Indoratori, an ancient alley within the city center. He earned two Michelin stars at this restaurant, which was the highest possible recognition for a restaurant in Italy at the time.

The restaurant became known as a place to find excellent food, and was frequently visited by stars of Italian cinema, culture, and art, in addition to kings such as King Costantine of Greece and King Michael of Romania. Giangiacomo Feltrinelli was finally successful in convincing Bergese to publish a collection of his most famous recipes, all 513 of which can be found in his cookbook «Mangiare da re» (Food for Kings).

After closing his restaurant in Genoa Bergese considered himself retired, but after much insistence by Gianluigi Morini, founder of Ristorante San Domenico in Imola, he went back to work in the kitchens of this restaurant in Romagna. It certainly wasn’t easy to convince Bergese to start again, as he already considered himself retired, and he initially turned the offer down. Veronelli urged Morini to continue to insist until he received a positive answer, and even after this it took much to convince Bergese to stay.

The great chef confided in Morini, telling him he was very worried about the unpredictability of the number of patrons of such a restaurant, but Morini reassured him by very intelligently giving Bergese free reign in the kitchens so that he could completely express himself. Bergese passed away in Genoa in 1977.

He founded a school in Savona which remains a reference point for all chefs of the world.